Your Guide to Vulcan Athletics
Team members recap past games, express hope for the future
Sports Writer Trixie Croad
Graphic Designer Kapua Arsiga
With the fall season well in the rearview mirror, and the spring season now underway, what better time to take a look at how the UH Hilo Vulcan teams are doing? For those who aren’t familiar with collegiate athletics at UH Hilo, there are twelve Vulcan teams in total. Volleyball, soccer, and cross country all have competition during the fall semester. tennis, baseball, and softball play during the spring, golf play in both the fall and spring - and basketball bridges the gap over the winter period, for all those eager fans out there who just can’t get enough of the action. All of these teams compete in the PacWest Conference which covers teams throughout Hawaiʻi and California as well as Dixie State University from St. George, Utah.
Fall season saw a lot of changes for soccer, with a new head coach for both the men’s and women’s teams as Gene Okamura steps up from the assistant position. The women’s side finished 10th in the PacWest, improving by one spot on last years standings. Sophomore defender Meghan Langbehn says she enjoyed Coach Okamura’s style of play and thinks the team is better for it. “I think we performed very well and hopefully we can show that through our results a little better next year because our games were all so close,” Langbehn said.
Men’s soccer didn’t handle the change in coaching staff so well. With only one non-conference win against Chaminade under their belt, the team finished bottom of the PacWest table, three spots lower than last year. Outgoing senior Anthony Novella said there were still a lot of positives to take from it, despite the current round of disappointing results. “Each game we played our hardest with all our heart and we were able to hold our own even against really good schools,” Novella said. The Vulcans had close losses against top schools, including Point Loma Nazarene as well as Fresno Pacific.
Volleyball had a seesaw season with some epic highs, as well as crushing lows. The Vulcans finished 10th in the PacWest but had wins against three of the top five teams as well as losses against the bottom two. As Captain and outgoing senior Sienna Davis says, “We had injuries at crucial times and we didn’t have a deep sub bench in any position but I think we made the most of what we had.” This season oversaw the end of the era for Vulcan volleyball as three key starters finished their eligibility, and Tino Reyes ended his seven year stint as head coach. Without a new coach, it remains a mystery as to what will be next for Vulcan volleyball.
Cross country had the opportunity this fall to host the PacWest championships on a home course in Keaau which was a real highlight for them. All 14 schools from the conference travelled to the Big Island with 106 runners in the race. Top Vulcan runner Anna Baker Mikkelson, who finished 49th in this meet, says the team was small this year with just six members, but that this allowed them to become a close unit and they bonded well. “Good memories of early mornings, a very muddy home course, a trip to Oregon, and ice cold baths,” Mikkelson said. With only one senior, the Vulcans now have an opportunity to build a solid team around this core group for upcoming seasons.
Although soccer, volleyball, and cross country have wrapped up for the school year, there is still plenty of action to look forward to as spring sports are heating up. Softball kicks their season off with a road trip to Las Vegas and Utah for preseason tournaments. The softball team have also had a coaching change this year, with Callen Perreira returning to the head coach position, after previously coaching from 1990 to 2009. According to Student Assistant Coach and former player Rachel Greer-Smith, the team is responding well to the coaching change, and are healthy and excited to get into it ahead of their twelve day road trip to the mainland.
Baseball begins their season with a string of seven home games, starting with preseason games against Chuo University from Japan up first on Feb. 21 and 22. Their schedule includes 14 home games, as well as two road trips to California and one to O‘ahu. They hope to improve on last years results which saw them at the bottom of the PacWest. Junior first baseman Phil Steering says the team has some real potential this year but that its hard to set expectations with some uncertain injuries among a few players. “We’ve had a lot of injuries lately - especially our pitchers - and were not exactly sure how bad they are, but if everything works out the way it should, we should probably have our best season yet,” said Steering.
Tennis also begins its season in February, and with a quite a few new international transfers in both the men’s and the women’s line up, both teams are enjoying some much needed depth. Junior Stefan Coney is optimistic that this will make a big difference. “We should be able to compete better with the bigger teams in our conference,” Coney said. Hopefully we can take a few teams by surprise.” Team captain Kinsey Volkart is also optimistic about the women’s chances, saying they have been training really hard and are excited to start competing. After narrowly missing out on the all conference tournament last season, the girls will have that in their sights for this time around.
Men’s and women’s basketball are about to hit crunch time in their winter season, with just over half of their games completed. The men are in a good position right now to make playoffs, currently tied for the sixth and final spot. After narrowly missing out last season on going through, Junior Darius Wilson-Johnson says this is something they are really striving for but the second half of the season will prove difficult with mostly road games left to play. “That's always been our achilles heel in the past and we’re going on an important away stretch against the top five teams in our league, so if we can come up with some wins there that will be key for our season,” Wilson-Johnson said.
The women’s side have had it tough being fraught with serious injuries of several key players throughout the season, and they currently sit tenth in the PacWest. Senior Asia Smith says this has had a tremendous impact on their season, but she’s proud of the progress the team has been able to make despite injuries, and says it’s still a goal to make it into the top six for playoffs.
Golf has a year round season with tournaments both in the fall and spring semesters, and they are the only team to play throughout the entire academic year. Women’s golf player and junior Andi Igawa says it's always tough to juggle school with the sport she loves, but that she and most others have managed to to find a balance for the time being. Overall, the women’s team is happy with their results, especially at their recent home tournament in Waikoloa.
Men’s golf unfortunately lost two players after the fall season, so they will have to work hard to make it to regionals with smaller numbers in the spring. A highlight for the men this semester will be the Amer Ari tournament they are hosting in Waikoloa. Junior Jared Kinoshita says this will be of great significance, because there will be top Division I schools like USC, Stanford and Texas competing alongside them.
For more information about upcoming games, schedules, and results, go to: hiloathletics.com.